Why are there so few examples of great crisis management?

When I ask most audiences to name a company that did a great job managing a crisis, most people (in Canada, anyway) say the name of one company: Maple Leaf Foods. I agree. They did a great job. But the real question is this...Why are there so few examples of excellent crisis management and so many instances of companies doing the wrong thing? The answer, in part, is human nature. That, and a lack of prep and planning.

Media training is the blind spot

Media training is the blind spot

Executives and entrepreneurs dedicate their lives to self improvement. They vie for the most prestigious schools. Many pursue post-graduate studies. They go on retreats, read books, listen to podcasts, attend conferences, do cleanses, meditate, do yoga, try intermittent fasting. They’re constantly on the lookout for a hack. An edge. Something that will make them smarter, more agile, better prepared, more successful.

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Dealing with a crisis? Don't make it worse.

When your company has to contend with a crisis, one of your top jobs is to not make it worse. But there are so many ways to make it worse. Long delays in getting back to the media. A lack of empathy in your response. Insincere or missing apologies. Conflicting messages from multiple spokespeople. The list goes on. Part of any sound crisis management strategy is having a plan in place and training your executives so they know what to do if something goes wrong.

They'll judge you not on the crisis, but on how you handle it...

Bad things happen. They can happen in any sector or industry. For the most part, the public will not judge your organization on the circumstances of your crisis. They are much more likely to judge you on the way you handle it.

Having your PR agency do your media training is a missed opportunity

You wouldn’t get the guys at the quick oil change place to install a new engine in your classic car. You wouldn’t go to your dentist for complicated dental surgery. I think you see where I’m going with this…

When companies let their PR or marketing agency facilitate their media interview training sessions, they’re taking the path of least resistance. They’ll say things like, “It’s included in our monthly retainer" or “We already have a relationship with them”.

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The top things people are worried about before their media interview (and how to address them)

The top things people are worried about before their media interview (and how to address them)

Media interviews can be stressful. After all, there’s a lot on the line. And while no two people are exactly the same, as someone who helps coach people to do better media interviews for a living, I can tell you that there are some very common sources of interview anxiety. Here are the most common reasons people are stressed out about their media interviews (and some tips for minimizing that stress so that your interview goes well) and you can get that great coverage you’re hoping for:

Worry #1: They could ask me anything.

This is the biggest source of anxiety prior to an interview. Your mind starts racing with all the things they ‘might’ ask you and you spiral down a rabbit hole of terrible hypothetical topics. In reality, a media interview is a negotiated interaction. If it’s a proactive story you’re pitching, you know what the topic is. If it’s a reactive story where they’re calling you, the reporter should give you a clear overview of the focus of their story. Once you know the focus, it’s your job to craft some high-quality remarks that cater to that focus and tell an actual story that the reporter’s audience would find interesting. Could they go off script and ask you something totally out of the blue?

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Your social media icons/links are missing!

One of the most basic oversights a lot of organizations are making is that they don’t include their social media links/icons on their websites. I know this because as I was preparing for an industry conference, I was checking out the social media pages of more than 100 associations and I noticed that about HALF of them either didn’t have these icons on their sites at all or they had one (e.g. Facebook) that was put there years ago and hadn’t updated them. It makes it SO much harder for people to find your YouTube account. Your Twitter page, etc. And it’s such an easy fix. Just ask your web people to include the links/icons in a prominent place on your home page AND your contact page.

The two worst characteristics for anyone doing a media interview

Being smart and being nice. Sound strange? Those are actually two of the worst characteristics to bring into your media interview. Now, I’m not saying don’t be smart and don’t be nice. But in this video, I talk a little bit about how these two conversational habits can hurt the effectiveness of your media interviews.

Why you HAVE to review/critique your own media coverage - as uncomfortable as it might be

Why you HAVE to review/critique your own media coverage - as uncomfortable as it might be

I had a refresher media training session with a client last week - the CEO of a large not-for-profit. While we were chatting, I asked what she had thought of the video of her simulated TV interview that I had sent after our initial session back in the spring. She got this sheepish look on her face and said, “…I haven’t watched it yet.”

I’m guessing she’s not the only one. I just assumed that when I sent people the videos of their TV interviews from our training sessions, that they were watching them, analyzing their performance and looking for ways to improve. But I was ignoring one fundamental truth. For many people, watching/reading/listening to your own media coverage can be incredibly uncomfortable.

I get it. People - especially those who demand a lot of themselves (e.g. perfectionists) - often wish they had handled part of the interview differently. Some people just don’t like how they look on camera. Whatever the reason, they let their media coverage (or simulated media training coverage) sit in the cloud or on a hard drive, unread, unwatched, unlistened to.

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Please throw your teleprompter in the garbage

OK that might sound a bit harsh. Teleprompters used to be a coveted and valued piece of video production equipment. But in 2019, you can see a corporate talking head who’s using a teleprompter from 100 feet away and the result is usually a soul crushing, boring video that you click out of as soon as you can. There’s a better way to get your spokesperson’s thoughts on video. A few thoughts on that in this video. Thanks for watching.

When is your media interview over?

When is your media interview over. That’s easy. It’s when they stop asking questions, right? Not so fast! There are a lot of things you can do or say after the last question that can derail your media relations plans. It’s never over until it’s really over. Here are a few things to consider on that note.

The only REAL way to get more Twitter followers

A few times a week, I’ll get followed by someone on Twitter and will check out their profile. They’re a marketing person. Usually from the US. They don’t look familiar at all. But they have 162,000 Twitter followers. Impressive at first glance, right? Well, not to me. Not anymore. If you dig a little below the surface, you’ll find that it’s all smoke and mirrors. BS. They’ve purchased fake followers to make themselves ‘look’ like an authority on a topic. One of the ways to tell is to check out the engagement on their tweets. For an audience of that massive size, their tweets will have very few likes, comments, retweets, etc. This is the WRONG way to get followers. It’s empty, it’s shallow, it’s short-sighted and it makes you look like kind of a desperate social media loser.

In this video, I talk about the way I’ve grown my audience. Today it stands at around 3,200 followers or so but I’ve grown it one at a time over the course of the last 10 years. No bots. No purchased followers. They’re real people - people I’ve met through my client work, speaking at conferences, speaking at colleges, etc. And after every one of those talks, I spend some dedicated time connecting with every single person. If you don’t believe me, go to ‘tweets and replies’ on my Twitter page and scroll down.

In my opinion, this is the only way to create a real, true, authentic audience. One at a time.

Why are people not doing practice interviews before speaking to the media?

One of the sad truths I’ve come to realize doing media training sessions in Canada and other countries is that the typical smart, career-minded professional will put WAY more work and preparation into a short, in-house presentation than they will for a media interview. I have my theories about why that is - namely, that they’re seeing it more as a conversation with the reporter than what it really is - an on-the-record interview that will be archived online forever.

I have this saying when it comes to media interviews, that ‘the first is the worst’. By definition, the first time you do it should logically be the worst. Most people do that first interview with a reporter though and they leave a lot of upside on the table. But what if you tried doing the first version of an interview with your in-house media relations person or with someone like me? Then you got some real, pull no punches feedback and tried it again. The second version of that interview will be significantly better than the first. Then, you do it with the reporter. The result is better media coverage.

Don't use "we're in a boring business" as an excuse for weak social media efforts/results

One of the common cop outs for organizations to excuse their anemic social media efforts is to say, “we’re in a boring industry” or “what we do doesn’t translate well on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook”. It’s exactly that - a cop out. What your organization does has no direct impact on your ability to rock it on social media to further your mandate and connect with your audiences. There are a lot of ‘boring’ businesses out there that are doing an excellent job with their social media work (I refer to two of them in this video). There are also a lot of businesses in “sexy'“ industries that are seriously dropping the ball (I mention one of those here too).

It all comes down to leadership. For a decision-maker in the organization to say “this is something important that we need to be doing” and to then support that commitment with resources, training, equipment, etc.

The other important point from this video is that, even in 2019, it’s not too late to start.

You can't rewrite yesterday's headlines

You can't rewrite yesterday's headlines

Interview regret…

It’s that nagging feeling, right after you’ve given a media interview, that you didn’t quite nail it. That you could have done a better job.

If only I had answered that one question differently. Did I say ‘um’ too many times? Could they see that I was sweating? They’re not going to put that last thing I said in the story, are they? If they do, our competitors are going to have a field day with it. What’s my boss going to say?

Cue anxiety. Self doubt. Interview regret.

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My day with Wayne Gretzky - 20 years ago today!

In my bio or when I get introduced at conferences, I often reference the fact that I got to be Wayne Gretzky’s PR handler for a day in 1998. It was a really cool and memorable experience. The Great One was (obviously) one of my childhood heroes and, growing up in Sault Ste. Marie, we were lucky to have him play for the Greyhounds for a year. Anyway, I’ve never really talked publicly about that day or what took place. It was a charity event that he was in town for. I was there as media relations support. I got to hang out with and observe Mr. Gretzky (that’s what I called him all day) for most of the day. I learned some valuable lessons about handling yourself in public and media relations on that day. People say don’t meet your heroes because you will be disappointed. This was not the case on December 8, 2018. He was gracious, friendly, professional and cool. He actually also offered to sign something for me so I ran down to the Hockey Hall of Fame and bought a book about him. I got him to autograph it to my dad and that was my dad’s big Christmas gift that year. I also made a bit of a rookie mistake on that day. Near the end of the event, as he was leaving, I stopped doing my job for a few seconds. I let my mind wander. And it led to a bit of an awkward situation that I describe in the video. Thanks for watching!

7 tips to being a memorable wedding MC

7 tips to being a memorable wedding MC

Being asked to serve as Master of Ceremonies for a friend or relative's wedding is a huge honor. But there's a lot of pressure that comes with the job too. Contrary to popular belief, you're not up there to be the center of attention or to be the official wedding comedian. You're the host of the event and it's your job to keep the proceedings on time and to make sure everyone is enjoying themselves. I had the honor of serving as the MC at my sister's wedding a few years back. It was the fourth time I've pulled MC duty over the past 20 years and I've learned some valuable lessons about

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